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Hamas agreed to ceasefire in Gaza, ready to release all hostages but is afraid of Israel, demands written guarantee

Hamas has given preliminary approval to a US-backed proposal for a phased ceasefire agreement in Gaza, giving up its key demand. Giving this information on Saturday, an official of Hamas and Egypt said that Hamas has given up its key demand that Israel make a public commitment to end the war completely. The apparent agreement reached by the militant group could help halt the fighting for the first time since last November and set the stage for further talks on ending the devastating nine-month war. But all sides warned that the agreement is still not guaranteed. Hamas controlled Gaza before the war began with the October 7 attack on Israel.

The ceasefire will be in several phases

Both officials said that Washington’s phased agreement would first include a six-week ‘overall and complete’ ceasefire, which would see the release of many hostages, including women, elderly and injured, in exchange for the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners. The officials said that during these 42 days, Israeli forces will withdraw from densely populated areas of Gaza and allow displaced people to return to their homes in northern Gaza.

They said that during this period Hamas, Israel and the mediators will also negotiate the terms of the second phase, which could include the release of the remaining male hostages (civilians and soldiers) and in return Israel will free additional Palestinian prisoners and detainees. The third phase will see the release of all remaining hostages, including the bodies of dead hostages, and the start of a year-old reconstruction project.

Hamas seeks written guarantees

The two officials said Hamas still wants ‘written guarantees’ from the mediators that Israel will continue to negotiate a permanent ceasefire agreement after the first phase takes effect. The Hamas representative said the group’s approval came after receiving ‘verbal commitments and guarantees’ from the mediators that the war will not be resumed and that negotiations will continue until a permanent ceasefire is reached. He said, ‘Now we want this written guarantee.’

Earlier ceasefire talks could not take place as Hamas is adamant on the demand that any agreement should include a complete end to the war. In contrast, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has offered to stop the fighting, but it will not be completely ended until Israel achieves its goal of destroying Hamas’s governing and military capabilities and freeing all the people held hostage by the terrorist group.

What is Hamas afraid of?

Earlier Hamas had expressed concern that Israel would start the war again after the release of the hostages. Similarly, Israeli officials had worried that Hamas would withdraw from the talks indefinitely without releasing the hostages after the initial ceasefire. This news came out on Saturday amid the fighting in Gaza and the continuation of Israeli air bombardment. The Hamas-run Interior Ministry said four police officers were killed in an Israeli airstrike in Rafah on Saturday. The ministry, which oversees the civilian police, said the officers were killed while on foot patrol to protect properties. It said eight other police officers were wounded. The Israeli military did not immediately respond to questions.

Funeral prayers were held in the central city of Deir al-Balah for 12 Palestinians, including five children and two women, killed in three separate attacks in central Gaza on Friday and Saturday, according to hospital officials. Two of those killed in attacks on the Mugazzi refugee camp on Friday were employees of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, the UN agency’s communications director said. A total of 194 UN staff have been killed in the conflict since October.